New certificates keep DCTC program on leading edge of technology
The Multimedia and Web Design program at Dakota County Technical College rolled out three new certificates this fall: Digital Animation, Web Design, and Interactive Media Design. Whether you’re a new student looking for additional skills beyond the A.A.S. degree or a seasoned web designer who wants to stay on top of industry standards, there are many options to choose from. Multimedia and Web Design Instructor DeAnn Engvall took a few minutes out of her busy day to tell current and prospective students about the exciting new certifications.
What prompted the addition of new certificates?
I always do a lot of research into the industry and basically saw a need to delve into a couple categories that we weren’t currently covering in the degree. I also saw that there was a possible hesitancy in the field to jump into pursuing an entire degree, if you were just wanted to add certain skills. If you’re already a graphic designer or something else, and you don’t need a degree because you already have one, the certificates allow you to just tack on skills. This is also a field that’s very work-based, through portfolios or just a proof of skills. So some people would want the skills, but not the general education aspect. What we’re looking at here is a ‘two birds with one stone’ thing, how to add in skills that we currently don’t have in the degree and how to give people an option to get a batch of courses out of the way instead of aiming for the whole degree.
The two big skills that I found in my research were being able to animate in something other than Flash and being able to design for mobile devices, so we created courses to fulfill that need. We also developed a Web Construction III because of content management systems. There are CMS’s out there like WordPress and Joomla! where you don’t necessarily have to jump in and do things by scratch. You can use template systems, but there’s a learning curve on each of those. If you take the class, you can go out there knowing your options, have enough comfort to feel confident when developing something for a client, and then making content changes. Anybody can come in and use a template, but that doesn’t mean they are making good design decisions. Two of the things we’re finding with these CMSs are: a) the client doesn’t want to learn how to use the whole thing, they want the designer to come in; and b) they also don’t have the design background to make those decisions. If you can build the page, the shell, and they can take back control of the content, then it’s a good match. We are only offering the new courses in the certificates, but they could also be used as electives in the degree. A student could also tack the certificate onto the degree, just by getting a couple of those courses. Then maybe down the road, there’s a possibility that something like Flash might go by the wayside. The courses are set in place so we can fill those potential gaps and we won’t have to scramble for something to replace them. They are similar skills but not in a specific software. We are looking to the future, working with a population that might not need the degree, and augmenting the skills for someone who had the degree and wanted to add some additional skills. Ultimately, we are staying on top of the industry.
Tell us about the three new certificates.
One certificate is the digital animator and that’s about creating animated content. Even just video or Flash filed could be considered animated content. Animation is dealing with time, change over time. That is a very specific content developer. The other one is a web designer, who basically creates the shell, the way the page is pulled together using existing content. It’s not about making the pictures, making the video, or making all of this other stuff. It’s about putting it together in a webpage. Those are the two smaller certificates. Then the third certificate is the digital animator and web designer together, plus a couple of additional classes. A student can throw them together and get a bigger certificate, a little more well-rounded content and structure.
What kind of person would the certificates appeal to?
They could be for a broad range of people, whether they just want a taste or already have a lot of skills and need to add something on top of it. Maybe somebody already knows their strength, so they don’t want to take courses that they’re not interested in or isn’t a good fit for them. With a certificate, a student can really focus on exactly what they want. They are packaged by function.
What can you tell a student who is considering a certificate or degree in Multimedia and Webdesign?
Anytime we put together curriculum, we not only make sure that our students are exposed to a broad enough range of skills that they can fit into a range of niches, but we also provide specific skills so that they’re not floundering when they get to their job. We’re always trying to get that delicate balance. Some of your job as a student will be to explore specific areas that you’re particularly interested in. You WILL have to become your own mentor, in terms of teaching yourself, finding tutorials, being proactive because the technology will not stop. We can give you a certain amount, we will send you on your way, but you have to develop the ability to keep plugging away- if someone brings up a term, a concept and you don’t know what that is, just jump on the internet. At least understand how it fits into things and then you’re going to be more empowered.
The thing DCTC has is that we balance design and technology, so making sure a student has the layout skills, someone critiquing and making sure you make good decisions, along with understanding the software to get the job done. That’s definitely a strength. Getting something like this from a technical college is a very sound investment. It’s of good value. I’m excited about the certificates! As an instructor and industry professional, I’m constantly looking at what’s going on. So is the rest of the world.